I am known on social media for telling people not to panic. In fact, I have infuriated people who insist that panic is the only normal response to Trump, an argument I reject as both unfounded and poor strategy. Trump is the worst thing to happen to the American presidency, but he can be beaten. But if the Democrats are going to shoot random flares into the political skies, then this effort is doomed. Sanders and Buttigieg are good choices if your point is to make a public statement about your progressive politics, or perhaps to showcase your personal willingness to be open-minded about ideology, youth, old age, religion, or sexuality. But the point, unexciting though it is, should be to help Democrats find a candidate who can win over swing voters in Wisconsin and Michigan.

When I was a Republican, I used to count on the Democrats being, in the words of the GOP consultant Rick Wilson, “holistically bad at politics.” The Democratic wave in 2018 suggested that the party, when faced with a menace on the scale of Trump, could regroup, and I was pleasantly surprised at how moderate candidates led the way to recapture the House.

After the mess in Iowa, I am again hoping to be proved wrong. The national Democrats need to forget about Iowa, refocus, and become more serious about the only issue that matters—beating Trump. The president is sitting on a pile of cash and a machine fueled by absolute party discipline. If the Democrats are going to beat him, they cannot afford another night like Monday.